Winter Scotland trip questions
November 19, 2012 8:06 AM   Subscribe

I'll be travelling to Scotland soon and I would love some suggestions from Metafilter, especially for tour groups in Scotland and my layover in Shannon, Ireland, but any recommendations are welcome!

Ireland: I'll have 6 hour layover in Shannon on New Year's Day morning (from 6:20am-2:50pm). Does it make sense to try to get out of the airport, even just for a good restaurant or something? Is there something cool I could reasonably do in the area that wouldn't cut timing too close? Just for one person.

Scotland: 4.5 days starting Jan 1 evening, traveling with a friend. We want to drink and not drive and are thinking about doing one more tours to facilitate that and also get to sightsee. We'd be up for hiking and activities but not looking for an adventure trip, really. Does anyone have any recommendations for tour companies? We love eating and drinking and experiencing cool and beautiful things. I'd also love hotels/accommodations recs that are reasonably priced and open. Amazing food recs welcome also. Are there Mefites in Scotland for a meetup?

Clothes: If I dress for a NY winter will I be okay in Scotland? Or does it feel signifcantly colder? Will I feel unchic in a parka?

Thank you!
posted by Salamandrous to Travel & Transportation around Scotland (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Scots writer (mainly SF, but not all) Iain Banks has a semi-autobiographical book called "Raw Spirit," describing his efforts to visit and review every licensed operating distillery in Scotland, and also to find anyone doing it in an unlicensed fashion. But the book was the best pitch for visiting Scotland ever-- his descriptions of a few sights (Orwell's cabin, or some familiar movie locations) and also some "great wee roads," where a certain kind of driving pleasure is derived, either from the path of the road, the scenery, or a certain dinnae know what. Bank's left-wing politics arise from time to time, but if it didn't bother me, it won't bother anyone to my left, which is most of MeFi.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:19 AM on November 19, 2012

Hiya from Scotland.

Bear in mind that January 1st AND January 2nd are public holidays in Scotland. In fact I would be surprised if there will be many tour companies operating during the time you are here. Many of the attractions may well be closed that week as well. YMMV.

That said, I have had relatives of mine use Go Scotland for day trips from Edinburgh to Loch Ness and the Highlands. If they are running then they heartily recommend.

The weather is hard to predict. It might be pouring snow (which, traditionally, UK authorities struggle to manage transport-wise), or it might be pouring rain, or it might clear as a bell. It certainly doesn't get as cold here in Scotland as it does in New York. I think a couple of layers beneath a parka should suit you fine.

I would definitely be up for a Mefi meetup. (Transport depending). I am in Dundee, work in St Andrews and can get to Edinburgh easily enough if need be.

Good luck! Mefi mail me if you need any further help.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 8:26 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

January 1st and 2nd are holidays in Scotland (hogmanay) and most things will be closed (as TheOtherGuy says). This includes public transit (there may be some on the 2nd), restaurants, many supermarkets, etc. Without a car you'll have a lot of trouble getting around until after the 2nd.
posted by cushie at 8:29 AM on November 19, 2012

I know others have said this upthread, but you really, really should not underestimate the degree to which Scotland shuts down after Hogmanay. There is some public transport on the 2nd, in a very grudging sort of way - but it will be on a very limited timetable, and often not even follow the usual routes (so they can, for example, cover three bus routes with the one bus). If you think of it as the entire nation having a hangover, you have it about right.

I think if I was in your position I'd stay somewhere in central Edinburgh for the 1st and 2nd, because even if there isn't anything actually open you can still have a look round the outsides of places like the Old Town. Things are getting back to normal on the 3rd, but I wouldn't set out for any attraction without checking it's open.
posted by Coobeastie at 9:18 AM on November 19, 2012

Hopefully someone will offer a more specific answer about Shannon, but I'd caution that there may be absolutely nothing open nearby (Limerick or Ennis would be the obvious destinations). New Year's Day is one of the most closed-for-business days in Ireland, with even large multinational supermarkets closed as well as individual restaurants and shops, and there's often nothing available in cities or towns other than a convenience shop. It's not just the Christmas period effect, it's like Christmas day itself.

If you're very keen to leave the airport, I'd investigate places like hotels with restaurants, and I'd check directly about opening hours in advance and make sure that transportation will actually be running.
posted by carbide at 9:24 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bunratty Castle is only about 10 km from Shannon Airport, and I would usually recommend it as somewhere suitable if you have a few hours to spare. The opening times page doesn't say anything about New Year's Day, but it does state that the place is closed for 3 days over Christmas, so I assume they'd say so if they were closed on 1st January as well (though I'd check by email). The problem would be getting there - I'm not sure what kind of transport will be running.
posted by Azara at 9:28 AM on November 19, 2012

Checking a bit more, while the local commuter bus service is not running on New Year's Day, the Shannon-Limerick bus has a request stop at Bunratty. That bus is supposed to run every hour daily, including public holidays (the only day they say it's not running is Christmas Day). I'm a bit suspicious, though, that they list the request stop at Bunratty only in one direction, from Shannon to Limerick, and not on the return leg, from Limerick to Shannon.
posted by Azara at 9:57 AM on November 19, 2012

Check out the kind folks at Secret Scotland to see if they have any advice. We used them on our longer trip and it is no exaggeration to say that they rock.
posted by jeporter99 at 12:29 PM on November 19, 2012

New Year's Eve is bound to be a biggie in Bunratty, I very much doubt it will be open on New Year's Day. I'd ring Durty Nellie's if I were you and check opening hours on New Year's Day.
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posted by Wilder at 3:10 PM on November 19, 2012

Thanks everybody!

It sounds like we will do at least through the evening of 1/2, if not through to 1/3, in Edinburgh.

Wilder, Thanks for the tip for Durty Nellie's, and Bunratty castle. If it's open I could even rent a car for the trip.

TheOtherGuy, that is great info and I hope we can work out a meetup! If it's okay I might memail you closer to the time when we know our itinerary a bit more. Definitely checking out Go Scotland.

Sunburnt, yay, something to read on the way to whet my appetite!
posted by Salamandrous at 3:25 PM on November 19, 2012

I'll have 6 hour layover in Shannon on New Year's Day morning (from 6:20am-2:50pm). Does it make sense to try to get out of the airport, even just for a good restaurant or something?

Shannon is a shithole and Ireland is generally closed New Year's Day. Bunratty is open during normal hours (I just rang to ask) but a couple of things: one, it will give you about as accurate a picture of Ireland and life in Ireland as 4 hours at Disney World would for the US. Two, it's a holiday and the taxi fare will be double until 8 am (as a holdover from the NYE surcharge), so I'd check on car rental prices. Three, if you're on a flight that arrives at Shannon at 6:20 am, you will likely be jetlagged to hell and back.

Alternatively, the Oakwood Arms is open for full Irish breakfast on New Year's Day from 7 am - 11 am, and it's €10. I'd be inclined to go there, eat breakfast, read the paper by the fire, maybe have a little snooze in a nice armchair, and head back to the airport at 12:30.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:01 AM on November 20, 2012

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